Censorship – Write Like your Parents are Dead!

Censorship is alive and well and living inside every writer’s head. It comes to fore when the topics get tough and every word matters. A clever observer once said the key to finding your true voice was to write as if your parents were dead. As writers, we have to grow up, to mature, to throw off our exhibitions, ignore the urge to self censor and just write (as if our parents were dead).

My first act of rebellion was to include bad language. Somehow writing the f word seems much stronger than saying it. For one thing, it remains on the page in full view long after it is written. There is no denying its presence. A spoken curse on the other hand can be an accident or an ephemeral explosion of sound. It may not even be heard. My next was to discover that a central character, the mother, was as horrible as you might even have the misfortune to meet. My third was to include sex, lots of it. In desperation my sister suggested I publish this terrible book under my ex husband’s name; and bring shame on my in-laws instead! My mother politely suggested I write proper stuff instead.

At a work reunion some years ago I met a colleague who was also writing. We spoke about composing sex scenes. He confessed it was beyond him; that the pages rejected his words. I asked was he happily married and he said he was. Newly inured by my own divorce, I could only suggest that he wrote as if he were never married,

Then last week at a book launch, I met two women; an old friend and a new friend. We were all writing. My two friends were writing crime books, dark subjects with bodies and serial killers and twisted methods of murder. They laughed over how they researched the most gruesome of topics with delight; how long it might take a body to decompose, how difficult it was to sever a head, how much blood might be pooled on the ground after a murder. They said their children despaired of them and the genre. They politely suggested their mothers write proper stuff instead.

Armed with this nugget of information I returned home to my teenage children. They know I am writing a book which contains graphic sexual scenes. I lazily call it my sex book, my Irish version of the Fifty shades of grey. It is actually hen lit; the grownup version of chick lit. I pointed out to my children that it could be worse; I could be writing about serial killers and twelve year old children being tortured and killed. They were not impressed. They politely suggested that they would rather I wrote despicable crimes than sex.

So I have a new observation for writers stepping into troubled waters. Write as if you were an orphaned lone child who never married and who never had any children!

Good luck!


Argument in Favour of Fifty Shades

(this article first appeared in www.TheDailyShift.com on Saturday 4, August 2012)


Guest contributor Jillian Godsil reveals why she believes E.L. James’s infamous novel Fifty Shades of Grey has had a positive impact on modern society and is liberating women around the world…


Yes, that ubiquitous book again. It’s the name on everyone’s lips and it’s still flying off the shelves at an amazing rate. Everyone is calling it ‘mummy porn’ and the idea is that eBooks have liberated women and they can read erotica without anyone knowing.

There are some very funny jokes about the Fifty Shades face on the Luas. The trick is to look at women reading Kindles on public transport and guess if they are reading erotica. It’s called the Fifty Shades face and it’s a public version of a woman’s orgasm face.

Actually, we’ve leapfrogged past the part where women are reading erotica discretely; we’ve already gone well past that little hurdle. Women are openly talking about it, women of all ages, and the sales of the physical paper back are through the roof. So it’s not as though women are reading it on the sly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Instead, what has happened is a revelation. Women like reading erotica. It’s the polite end of porn. Porn, while also increasingly pervasive, is largely dominated by men, so the content tends to be male centric. It is also disturbing as children as young as seven have admitted viewing porn. The gatekeepers of decency haven’t got a hope as porn is so firmly available everywhere. It’s not that porn is intrinsically bad, it’s just that it is predominantly skewed to a male stereotype. This is another conversation but have a look at what Cindy Gallop of makelovenotporn.tv has to say on the subject.

Back to erotica. Women like reading erotica. This has been known for a long time. Women have known for a long time that the largest sex organ is the brain. Men find this a little hard to grasp. They don’t understand the popularity of Fifty Shades: ‘There are no pictures’ is often the puzzled cry. The fact is that women like to imagine their own pictures and erotica allows them to do just that. Women also typically like to find a context for their lust, so a plot is helpful. This concept is behind the idea that foreplay begins at breakfast, women like to be warmed up and not cold taken.

So while women know they like erotica, the problem was where to find it. Chick lit has the context but limited actual erotic writing. There are only a couple of well known names in this field; Anais Nin wrote literary erotica, Nancy French curated women’s fantasies, Erica Jong coined the term the ‘zipless fuck’ and Julie Burchill played fast and loose with her female character in Ambition. But those are only four names and their styles are so vastly different it would be unusual to find them all on the same person’s bookshelf (ok, they are all on mine).

The beauty of Fifty Shades of Grey is that people know it is an erotic book. It is all about the sex.

It is not terribly well written, the style harks to Twilight. If you love Twilight, then great. It’s very Mills and Boon, but with nipple clamps. The main character is borderline hateful with her great skin and multiple orgasms without Mr Grey going anywhere near her clitoris. She also has an inner goddess that I would personally like to strangle.

Christian Grey is of course young, gorgeous and filthy rich. His jeans hang off his hips and it appears he has a very attractive penis. Someone once commented that their wife wouldn’t let him tie her up as Mr Grey does, only for the wife to retort that not only did Mr Grey have all the above favourable attributes, he didn’t pick his toenails during episodes of CSI.

However, all of those criticisms are irrelevant. The book has sold to date in excess of 20 million copies and is a by word for erotica. I personally want to thank E.L. James for breaking the glass ceiling on women’s reading. And yes, I am writing my very own erotic novel and so am very grateful for the newly popularised genre.


Jillian Godsil is on twitter @jilliangodsil and her blog is www.JillianGodsil.com.  Her books are available on Amazon.